Click HereDear Access member,
I hope you enjoy our brief guide to China, Taiwan, and the Pacific islands in today’s newsletter below. On our website, we have the latest installment of Chinese Corner, our weekly review of popular nonfiction on the Chinese internet: In Beijing, finding an affordable rental is hard as hell.
Our next Access chat will be with Paul French, who came on Sinica a few weeks ago to talk about his outstanding new book called City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir, the story of two foreigners who ruled the underworld of Shanghai in the 1930s. Paul is scheduled to join us on Tuesday, September 11, at 11 a.m. EST.
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
1. China, Taiwan, and the Pacific islands
I spent a few weeks in Fiji in July. Everywhere I went, there were Chinese tourists, Chinese construction companies, and Chinese-made trucks. It’s hard to avoid them: Like most of the nations of Oceania, Fiji is made up of tiny islands, and there are not a lot of roads.
China will also be conspicuous — possibly by its absence — as a subject of discussion at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), which meets on the island nation of Narau from September 3 to 5.
The 18 members of PIF include the independent Pacific island nations, the French Pacific territories, Australia, and New Zealand. In advance of the PIF meeting, it’s the independent nations and their relationship with China that have been making the news.
Below is a brief guide to the independent islands, their relationship with China, and recent news coverage.
The date next to each country name shows the date of establishing diplomatic relations with either Taiwan or the P.R.C. It’s worth noting that of the 17 nations that still have diplomatic ties to Taiwan, six are PIF members.
Earlier this month, Australia’s Lowy Institute published an excellent interactive database and guide to Chinese aid in the Pacific, from which I’ve drawn the figures for Chinese aid in the guide below. For comparison, this is Lowy’s data on the total amount of aid to Pacific island nations from top donor countries from 2006 to 2013:
Australia – $6.831 billion
United States – $1.770 billion
Japan – $1.225 billion
New Zealand – $1.096 billion
China – $1.057 billion
I have excluded the Cook Islands and Niue, which are self-governing states in free association with New Zealand, meaning that New Zealand sets their foreign and defense policies.
A brief guide to China and the Pacific island nations
Map source: Wikipedia
Chinese aid (2006–16): $172.06 million
On August 16, Reuters reported that Tonga’s prime minister, Akilisi Pōhiva, said that Pacific island nations were “holding talks which could lead to a coordinated request that China forgive mounting debts in the region amid concerns Beijing may start seizing strategic assets.”
Tonga has “significant” debt to China, which it is due to start repaying “next month after borrowing heavily in the aftermath of deadly riots in 2006 that destroyed large parts of its capital.”
Pōhiva told Reuters in a phone interview that “China’s possession of a Sri Lankan port as Colombo struggled with a spiraling debt crisis meant asset seizures could not be ruled out.” He told Australian ABC that “Beijing would be more likely to listen if Pacific leaders presented a united front and asked for debt relief.”
On Friday, Pōhiva changed his mind. “About everything,” reports ABC: “After further reflection, I now believe that the Pacific Islands Forum is not the proper platform to discuss this debt issue.”
In language that could have been written in Beijing, Pōhiva’s statement adds: “Each Pacific Island country has its particular national conditions and different needs for foreign loan, and it’s up to each government to independently seek solutions through bilateral channels” (emphasis added).
“China did raise objections to the Tongan Prime Minister’s plan, and made a complaint,” according to ABC, but “the nature of that complaint — and its force and magnitude — are not clear.”
“China will continue to provide aid to Tonga and other countries in the Pacific to help them achieve sustainable development, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday,” reports VOA.
Chinese aid (2006–16): $230.12 million
The South China Morning Post reports that Samoa’s prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, rejected his Tongan counterpart’s earlier calls for Pacific island nations to ask China to write off debts, saying that it was like “requesting assistance and receiving milk, then later coming back and asking for the entire cow.”
Malielegaoi has been a staunch defender of Chinese aid in the Pacific. In January this year, he called an Australian politician’s criticism of China’s aid program in the Pacific “insulting.”
China’s on board. In May this year, the Samoa Observer reported: “After 40 years of helping Samoa through its bilateral relationship, China wants to do more. How to go about doing this is the goal of a Chinese delegation that is visiting Samoa for two days…”
Taiwan aid (2011–2018): $73,000
Tuvalu has had diplomatic relations with Taiwan since its independence from Great Britain in 1978. In 2006, Taiwanese media reported on an unsuccessful attempt by the P.R.C. to get Tuvalu to switch.
Federated States of Micronesia
密克罗尼西亚联邦 mìkèluóníxīyǎ liánbāng
Chinese aid (2006–16): $40.6 million
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM, aka Micronesia) comprises four states and more than 600 islands. It became formally independent from the United States in 1986, and established diplomatic relations with China in 1989, before the United Nations had formally recognized it as a sovereign country.
Chinese aid (2006–16): $632.46 million
Governed by the U.S. after World War II, Palau gained independence in 1994, and shortly afterward established ties with Taiwan. Palau has been in the news recently:
“Late last year, China effectively banned tour groups to the idyllic tropical archipelago, branding it an illegal destination due to its lack of diplomatic status,” reports Reuters.
“Some believe that the dollars were allowed to flow in and now they are pulling it back to try and get Palau to establish ties diplomatically,” one hotelier in Palau told Reuters.
Of the 122,000 visitors to Palau in 2017, “55,000 were from China and 9,000 from Taiwan,” according to official data cited by Reuters.
Taiwan aid (2011–2018): $45.45 million
Kiribati became independent from Great Britain in 1979, established diplomatic relations with the P.R.C. in 1980, and maintained them until 2003, when the country switched. It was a diplomatic loss for China, and Beijing also had to give up a satellite-tracking station in Kiribati. That facility had only just been completed in 1999.
马绍尔群岛马绍尔群岛 mǎshào’ěr qúndǎo
Taiwan aid (2011–2018): $51.99 million
Independent in 1979, this archipelago nation famous for the Bikini Atoll has never had ties to Beijing. That has not deterred Chinese business: The Marshall Islands–based subsidiary of Chinese deep-sea fishing company Shanghai Kaichuang Marine International last month ordered three new tuna fishing boats at a cost of $61.7 million, reports seafood industry website Undercurrent News.
Taiwan aid (2011–2018): $4.23 million
With around 11,000 citizens, this tiny nation comprises one island.
Phosphate deposits that originate from bird droppings was Nauru’s major resource, but there’s almost none of it left.
Today, Nauru makes money by selling passports and hosting a prison for refugees and migrants whom the Australian government would rather incarcerate in terrible conditions offshore.
Chinese aid (2006–16): $243.48 million
Vanuatu has had diplomatic relations with Beijing since 1982, but in November 2004, then prime minister Serge Vohor briefly established diplomatic relations with Taiwan, before being ousted in a vote of no confidence the following month.
In April this year, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on a “Beijing-funded wharf in Vanuatu that is struggling to make money [that] is big enough to allow powerful warships to dock alongside it,” and, in a separate report, said that “China has approached Vanuatu about building a permanent military presence.” Vanuatu and China both denied any plans for a military base.
The Vanuatu Business Review recently published a cover story titled: The debt trap myth — reports of our imminent economic demise are exaggerated. The article says Vanuatu is in excellent economic health because “government revenues are running hot.” A major factor: 16 percent of all non-tax revenues in 2017 came from the sale of passports, and this number is “on track to double” this year.
Who is buying the Vanuatu passports? The article suggests it is mostly Chinese nationals.
The Solomon Islands
所罗门群岛 suǒluómén qúndǎo
Taiwan aid (2011–2018): $94.2 million
The Solomon Islands is one of the few countries to maintain an embassy in Taipei. But China is nonetheless a real presence in the economy and politics of the Pacific nation.
On May 1 this year, the Australian reported that Chinese investors had “been approached by Solomon Islands politicians and Australian business interests to build a new airport and maintenance facility on the Pacific nation’s main island of Guadalcanal.” The article mentions the usual Australian concerns about China’s influence in their backyard.
The next day, ABC reported that a Solomon Islands official “hit back at reports that a proposed Chinese-backed development project could challenge Australia’s strategic dominance in the region.”
On June 13, the Guardian reported that then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull “announced that Australia would jointly fund construction of an underwater telecommunication cable network, which will link remote Solomon Islands communities to Honiara.”
Huawei was supposed to build the cable. In 2013, the Chinese telecom giant had signed a contract with the Solomon Islands to build the cable. The Solomon Islands’ government did not give an explicit reason for reneging on the contract, but the South China Morning Post reported that Solomon Islands Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela said, “There had been a change of heart following ‘some concerns raised with us by Australia,’ without elaborating.”
There’s more on the Solomon Islands and China in this New York Times piece: A new battle for Guadalcanal, this time with China (porous paywall).
Chinese aid (2006–16): $359.8 million
Taiwan aid (2011–2018): $16.32 million
Fiji was the first Pacific island country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Xinhua News Agency says the two countries have a “profound traditional friendship.”
In August 2017, 77 Chinese nationals were deported from Fiji in a joint operation with Chinese police. Although initial reports said they were members of a phone scam gang, later reports alleged that they were sex workers.
In July 2018, the Fiji Navy announced that it would receive a new surveillance and hydrographic vessel from China, says the Diplomat. The article notes that earlier this year, a Chinese Navy vessel docked and restocked multiple times, causing concern that the ship “was conducting surveillance of Australian assets.” China’s ambassador to Fiji naturally called such claims “sheer fabrication.”
Papua New Guinea
巴布亚新几内亚 bābùyǎ xīn jǐnèiyǎ
Chinese aid (2006–16): $632.46 million
Taiwan aid (2011–2018): $7.53 million
Papua New Guinea (PNG) established diplomatic relations with China the year after its independence, but has also maintained good relations with Taiwan.
In 1995, Taiwan and PNG formalized ties by signing a joint communique regarding principles in economic, trade, technical, and international cooperation.
In 1999, then prime minister Bill Skate briefly switched recognition to Taiwan, but he lost power less than a week later, and PNG’s diplomatic recognition reverted to China.
Chinese money is flowing into PNG. Two stories from the last two months:
As gas boom falters in Papua New Guinea, China steps in / WSJ (paywall)
“Faced with revenue crunch, country is relying on Chinese loans to develop ports, airports, roads and power stations.”
2. Trade war, day 50: China creaks open financial sector as negotiations go nowhere
The Wall Street Journal confirms (paywall) that two days of lower-level negotiations this week (day 48; day 49) went nowhere, as “the two sides largely repeated talking points during the discussions,” and a White House statement contained “no discussion of follow-up talks or any accomplishments.”
With no clear direction from direct negotiations, China is continuing its long-term strategy to defuse tensions with trading partners by gradually opening up to specific kinds of foreign investment. The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission announced (in Chinese) on August 23 that a 15-year-old law that treated foreign financial institutions differently from domestic ones has been repealed, and “foreign and domestic capital will be subject to the same access to markets and the same administrative procedures.” This keeps a promise to open the financial sector made last November, according to Bloomberg (paywall), which provides a helpful timeline of developments since then:
NOVEMBER: China unveils plan to remove foreign ownership limits on banks while allowing overseas firms to take majority stakes in local securities ventures, fund managers and insurers
APRIL: Xi vows to push ahead with the opening and central bank sets deadlines
MAY: UBS becomes first global bank to apply for a majority stake in its China securities venture
JUNE: China announces formal rules to ease foreign investment limits on a range of industries from banking to agriculture, updating its so-called negative list of industries where overseas investors are restricted or banned
Economic consultancy Trivium also notes this as an instance where China is making “good on its promises,” but says that we still have to wait a bit for implementation to fully play out:
“We are hearing that working level regulators — the ones who actually approve applications and grant licenses — are still not fully on board. Approvals are being held up, so the actual implementation of opening policies is lagging behind the announcements.”
But, Trivium writes, “It is only a matter of time before the high-level decisions filter down to working-level implementation. Once that logjam breaks, approvals and on-the-ground market openings tend to proceed quickly.”
Of course, the finance sector is just one of many, and international observers continue to see China as an unusually closed-off market:
“Comparing it with other G20 countries…in terms of service trade and investment, the Chinese economy is still very restrictive,” Alfred Schipke, the International Monetary Fund’s chief China representative, said while visiting Beijing, the SCMP reports.
China disagreed with the way the data was assembled, and argued it “has already complied with all its World Trade Organization commitments,” the SCMP notes.
Other trade war reporting:
Trump goes postal
Trump takes aim at China, questioning international postal rates / Bloomberg (paywall)
“The U.S. president directed the U.S. Postal Service to eliminate international postal discounts that let Chinese merchants inexpensively ship goods directly to U.S. consumers’ homes…[in] his latest attempt to eliminate policies that he feels put U.S. businesses at a disadvantage in global trade.”
But there’s another aspect to this, made obvious by an August 20th Trump tweet punctuated in all caps:
“It is outrageous that Poisonous Synthetic Heroin Fentanyl comes pouring into the U.S. Postal System from China. We can, and must, END THIS NOW! The Senate should pass the STOP ACT – and firmly STOP this poison from killing our children and destroying our country. No more delay!”
China’s central bank gives itself more leeway on setting exchange rate / FT (paywall)
“In an announcement on its website, the People’s Bank of China said it was reintroducing a ‘counter cyclical factor’ to guard against what Chinese authorities have sometimes criticised as irrational market moves.”
Public comment on next $200 billion in tariffs
Tariffs are a hidden tax on American consumers, Walmart, Apple and other retail giants tell US trade panel / SCMP
“An industry group representing Walmart, Target, Apple and other major US retailers has urged the Trump administration to remove more than 650 items from a list of Chinese imports subject to future tariffs, saying that US consumers would be the ones hardest hit. ‘Consumers, not China, will ultimately be the ones paying the tariffs imposed on millions of consumer products,’ the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) said on Thursday.”
3. Duterte threatens war over uranium
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte “has threatened to declare war against China if it monopolizes oil and uranium resources in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea),” reported the Manila Times yesterday.
“Duterte warned China there would be ‘difficulty’ if it found significant natural resources in the disputed waters,” and “said he could even raise the Philippines’ 2016 legal victory before a United Nations-backed arbitration tribunal that invalidated China’s claim to nearly the entire South China Sea.”
Duterte’s verbiage is Trumpian: “I will assert, why? The oil. If you take it alone, there will be mess. Because if you struck oil now, what is the ocean? I’ll let you be. That is all yours. But, son of a b***h, the uranium there… That is another story. The oil, that is another story. There, we will have a difficulty.”
He also joked “that acting Interior Secretary Eduardo Año would bring bolo knives to the disputed area and hack the Chinese,” according to the Manila Times, which says his outburst was caused by a BBC report on China chasing Filipino pilots away from the contested waters.
Duterte’s personal popularity is slipping “due in part to concerns that China’s assertiveness over disputed territory is undermining Philippine sovereignty,” says Bloomberg (porous paywall).
“Much of the $24 billion in investments President Xi Jinping’s government had promised has yet to materialize,” according to Bloomberg. The article calls Duterte’s latest comments a “radical about-face” as he has repeatedly touted “China’s financial help as a key reason for pivoting away from the U.S. and Europe,” and said such things as “I simply love Xi Jinping” and “More than anybody else at this time of our national life, I need China.”
4. Update on Xinjiang and journalist expulsion
The stories of Kazakhstan citizens arrested in China: Scholar Gene Bunin has translated an article originally published in Russian on Facebook in January this year that tells the stories of three Kazakhstan citizens who were sent to camps in Xinjiang.
A petition calling on Xi Jinping to “immediately abolish the ‘transformation through education’ detention system and release all Uyghur and Kazakh detainees and prisoners that have been ‘disappeared’ without due process or legal representation” has been launched by anthropologist Darren Byler, Uyghur filmmaker and poet Tahir Hamut, and Concerned Scholars of Xinjiang.
You can sign it here: A Petition for “the Disappeared” in the Uyghur and Kazakh homelands in northwest China.
After the predictable negative reaction in the media to China’s de facto expulsion of BuzzFeed correspondent Megha Rajagopalan, the nationalist rag Global Times has published an excruciating editorial defending the move.
It’s no surprise the Global Times editorials are so bad. James Palmer, Asia editor of Foreign Policy, spent some time working at the English version of the newspaper. In reaction to the garbled prose of the editorial on Rajagopalan, he tweeted:
Global Times editorials are dictated impromptu by Hu, sometimes down the phone, and then corrected afterward (usually for “political errors”). CCP logic is twisted at the best of times but the ability of GT to contradict itself within a paragraph is partially because of this.
“The U.S. embassy in Beijing said on Friday it was ‘deeply concerned’ about Chinese government restrictions on foreign and domestic journalists after authorities refused to issue a new visa for an American correspondent for BuzzFeed News,” reports the South China Morning Post.
If you missed this: Here is our explainer on Xinjiang and the million Muslims interned in camps there.
5. Who is Chinese?
In an essay on ChinaFile, scholar Martin Thorley says that when discussing Chinese Communist Party influence operations and other real or perceived threats to democracies, “we need to be careful about how we use the word ‘Chinese’”:
Too often, when discussing strategy and influence that emanates from the highest echelons of the Chinese Party-state, we say “Chinese” when in most cases we are referring only to a small group of individuals atop of the C.C.P. who are Han, male, middle-aged (or older), and extraordinarily wealthy.
“[Overseas Chinese] should strive to become active promoters of mutual political trust and mutually beneficial relations between China and neighbouring countries,” he said in a keynote speech at a forum in Hong Kong on Thursday.
Xu said cooperation between the Chinese government and overseas Chinese groups would be strengthened in the future.
6. An economic hangover in the making?
The Global Times reports that a Chinese liquor maker in Qionglai, Sichuan Province, which was unable to pay back a multimillion-yuan bank loan, cleared its debt with more than 900 tons of baijiu — strong grain alcohol.
The baijiu makers took out an 8 million yuan ($1.18 million) loan from the bank in 2015, but defaulted on repayments numerous times.
Here are the stories that caught our eye this week (other than the trade war and Xinjiang, updated above):
Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad visited Beijing and attempted to smooth over the disruption caused by his country suspending two major Belt and Road-related projects. He pinned the blame for the high debt of the projects on his predecessor, and met with Chinese business leaders during his visit, but insisted that “free trade should also be fair trade… We don’t want a situation where there is a new version of colonialism.”
Australia banned Huawei, the Chinese handset and telecom leader, from supplying equipment for a 5G mobile network, citing national security concerns.
Taiwan lost another ally, as El Salvador decided on August 20 to switch diplomatic recognition to the P.R.C. Taiwan said that El Salvador had asked for an “astronomical sum” of financial aid for a port project, which would have left both countries in debt, and this was the main cause of the breakdown in ties.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:
Economic growth by province
40 years of growth: Ranking China’s provinces by GDP per capita / Trivium China
An infographic and downloadable data set that shows official GDP stats broken down by province from 1978 to 2017. Why is this interesting? Trivium explains:
China’s economy is slowing — everyone knows that. But focusing on headline numbers like national GDP growth obscures the volatility and increasing economic divergence from province-to-province and city-to-city — the places where business and investment decisions actually play out.
Bribery and embezzlement at JD
JD publishes 16 cases of corruption with four people detained by the police / TechNode
“Most of the cases were associated with the bribery by or of a JD staff member and an external company or misappropriation of corporate assets.”
Alibaba: You will be assimilated
Alibaba’s newly minted local service unit secures $3 billion before rival IPO / TechNode
“Alibaba’s food delivery service Ele.me and O2O unit Koubei have been merged to a new holding company under the ecommerce giant. The new affiliate received $3 billion in funding from Alibaba and SoftBank.”
Tencent’s struggle with game regulators
Inside Tencent’s struggle to bring world’s hottest game to China / Bloomberg (paywall)
Despite authorities not allowing Fortnite — or any new video game — to be released in China for months, about “10 million people have pre-registered to get” Fortnite in China.
Read more about the regulatory holdup on SupChina: Tencent stock slumps while regulators sit on approvals.
Thailand gets Belt and Roaded
Thailand rolls out red carpet for 500 Chinese companies / Nikkei Asian Review
Thailand is welcoming 500 Chinese companies over the weekend and expecting to sign more than a dozen bilateral contracts that will link its Eastern Economic Corridor special economic zone to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Google in China
Google’s self-driving project Waymo sets up subsidiary in Shanghai / TechNode
“Alphabet’s self-driving company Waymo has chosen Shanghai as the headquarters of its subsidiary called Huimo Business Consulting. The China subsidiary was established in May with a capital of RMB 3.5 million yuan ($441,000).”
POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:
The surveillance state fights pollution
China’s surveillance network moves into the country to catch farmers illegally burning straw / SCMP
“Thousands of infrared cameras” have been installed across Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing. Their target: farmers burning corn husks and straw. The smoke from these autumn fires has been a non-trivial contributor to smog in the capital.
Taiwan and El Salvador
White House criticizes China over El Salvador recognition / NYT (paywall)
The White House statement also “sharply criticized El Salvador, saying the United States would re-evaluate its relationship with the country.” The White House did not explain why El Salvador should behave differently from the U.S.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted this reaction: “We welcome the statement from the White House. We will continue to defend our sovereignty & dignity, strengthen our self-#defence capabilities, and protect our free & democratic way of life. #Taiwan will also continue to be a force for regional stability. #IslandOfResilience.”
Africa, Taiwan, and China
Taiwanese businesses feel the squeeze in Africa as Beijing extends its reach / SCMP
“Taiwan’s businesses in Africa, already squeezed diplomatically and facing tough competition from their mainland counterparts, can expect to come under even more pressure as Beijing extends its reach across the continent, a Taiwanese business leader warned on Friday.”
Labor activism and its suppression
Police raid student group as support for Shenzhen Jasic workers grows / China Labour Bulletin
“A group of more than 50 student activists, who are supporting workers dismissed for trying to set up a trade union at Jasic Technology in Shenzhen, have been detained in an early morning police raid on their rented accommodation in the city.”
The PLA and the anti-corruption campaign
President Xi Jinping takes aim at more top Chinese generals as anti-corruption drive rolls on / SCMP
“Three senior Chinese generals have been either severely punished or detained as part of a corruption investigation this week.”
India-China border tensions
India, China agree to expand military ties after defense talks / Reuters
“India and China have agreed to expand their military ties and enhance interaction to ensure peace on their common border, India said after a meeting between the old rivals’ defense ministers.”
Bigger data, smaller brother?
China’s use of big data might actually make it less Big Brother-ish / MIT Technology Review
Yasheng Huang argues, “Big data would be a threat if Chinese citizens could be expected to have an abundance of political and civil liberties in its absence. But China is a repressive, authoritarian society with or without big data. Technology has made the repression more precise, but precise repression might be an improvement over indiscriminate repression.”
Typhoon Rumbia: 13 dead
Floods brought by Typhoon Rumbia devastate China’s biggest supplier of vegetables / SCMP
Torrential rain and widespread flooding “left 13 people dead and at least three missing this week in the city of Shouguang, in eastern China, and angry residents say the authorities may have added to the devastation.” Nearly 10,000 houses collapsed and about 200,000 greenhouses were damaged.
South China Sea: Multimedia explainer
Battle for the South China Sea / CNN
Nicely done summary with maps and photos of the “confusing web of territorial claims” in the South China Sea.
As the U.S. retreats from multilateral organizations…
China wants more Chinese to work in international organizations / Diplomat (paywall)
“China is revamping its human resource deployment to organizations like the UN.”
Brunei salutes US but banks on China / Asia Times
“The United States Pentagon recently concluded its first army-to-army exercise in Brunei, an energy-rich Islamic sultanate with lesser noticed competing territorial claims in the contested South China Sea.”
New Australian PM has history of blocking Chinese investment / Caixin (paywall)
SOCIETY AND CULTURE:
Beijing’s last old-style bathhouse
Shower business / LARB China Channel
Robert Foyle Hunwick writes: “Hong Sheng, qigong master, can perform nude splits on a bridge of cracked tiles in a sauna the temperature of Mount Doom like a man half his age. That’s how some guys like to roll in China: the backslapping, the baijiu toasting, the bonobo displays of power.”
‘Crazy Rich Asians’ doesn’t translate to China
Chinese moviegoers think “Crazy Rich Asians” is really not that Asian / Quartz
There’s been no official release in China, but the movie already has over 1,600 reviews on ratings site Douban (in Chinese), and’ they are mostly lukewarm. The quotes Quartz pulls from reviewers include:
“My ABC friends all love it while my Chinese friends hate it.”
“It looks like a film about Asians, but the spirit of it is American.”
“Lots of good details in the mahjong scene that show the battle between the mother-in-law and [prospective] daughter-in-law.”
Art — on display now in New York
An artist warns of a robot-ruled future. Or is it our present? Let’s discuss. / NYT (paywall)
New York Times art critic Jason Farago writes: “No young artist has a sharper view of the future than Cao Fei 曹斐. Her dreamlike visions of China’s full-tilt economic development, and the social dislocation and environmental abasement that have come with it, were the most beguiling and unnerving parts of her acclaimed midcareer retrospective at MoMA PS1 in 2016.”
The artist “revisits those themes with her new video work, ‘Asia One,’ a mournfully beautiful hybrid of economic forecast and tragic love story, now on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as part of the group exhibition ‘One Hand Clapping.’”
Asian Games 2018: China’s Wang Shanshan scores nine goals in one game / BBC
At the Asian Games, female soccer player Wang Shanshan is “already six goals clear of her rivals in the scoring charts,” as “China topped the group with three wins from three.”
Memories of the Cultural Revolution
Reunited at last: The friends who escaped China’s Cultural Revolution / BBC
“Two childhood friends met and then grew apart in the Chinese city of Guangzhou as the Cultural Revolution was at its height. Nearly six decades later they were reunited in Hong Kong after one read about the other in a BBC report, write Grace Choi and Lam Cho Wai.”
Public shaming online
Chinese passenger suffers public shaming for ‘crime’ of taking someone else’s seat on a half-empty train / SCMP
“A Chinese man who got into a row with a fellow rail passenger about a seat has been subjected to a high-profile shaming after an online vigilante mob started exposing all aspects of his life to public scrutiny.”
VIDEO OF THE DAY
China battles severe storms
This video of typhoon damage in Jilin Province looks bad — and reflects other similar situations that have been cropping up due to recent storms in China.
Viral videos in China, August 17-24
What is China watching? This week: A military training goes “mobile,” a narrow escape, and a bizarre pigeon release.
In addition, we also published the following videos, along with our second 360-degree video.
Chinese Corner: In Beijing, finding an affordable rental is hard as hell
Chinese Corner is Jiayun Feng’s weekly roundup of popular Chinese nonfiction writing. Most links are to Chinese-language sources.
China’s re-education camps for a million Muslims: What everyone needs to know
Adem yoq — “Everybody’s gone.” A human rights atrocity is unfolding in western China, where the “entire culture” of Uyghur Muslims is being criminalized and an all-seeing totalitarian police state has been established. Uyghurs abroad are being blackmailed into silence, journalists who try to cover the story are facing harassment, authorities are experimenting with even more powerful surveillance — and yet, the response from the international community has been underwhelming. Read our Xinjiang Explainer to make sense of the situation.
Reflections of a Chinese reporter in foreign media
Owen Guo spent seven years working as a reporter for foreign media in China, including the New York Times. He has since left the industry, and now finds himself reflecting on China’s delicate relationship with the international press — and some episodes that sent chills down his spine. As he writes: “I’m exiting journalism bearing no illusions that press freedom in this country will get any better. The forces that constrained reporting when I entered are as robust as ever.”
Rainbow trout is salmon, China’s fishery organization insists, despite backlash
Rainbow trout is clearly not salmon, according to science. But the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA) — the government-backed association that claimed the two species are the same in its new industry standards issued earlier this month — is obviously not here for scientific consensus. It almost seems like its primary concern is boosting its members’ profits by scamming customers.
The death knell of Chinese blogging: R.I.P. Wangyi Blog, which was once king of Chinese internet
Wangyi Blog 网易博客, a blogging platform operated by the Chinese internet services company 163.com, announced on Monday that it would be ending its 12-year-long operation. In the last few years, a string of blogging websites that once enjoyed great popularity have announced their closure, including Blogbus, Baidu Space, and 51 Blog, so the demise of Wangyi Blog is just another nail in the coffin of blogging.
NüVoices Podcast: Meet fantasy writer Mima, who aspires to create China’s Game of Thrones
Alice Xin Liu and NüVoices board member Sophie Lu interview fantasy writer Mima, known in China as Qima 七马. Her fantasy novel The Legend of Strangers 蝼蚁传 is a road adventure told in a style that melds Quentin Tarantino’s quirky violence with Miyazaki whimsy, and is now being turned into a Youku web series! We expect her to be the next George R. R. Martin.
Kuora: How the West views China now, China viewed the West 200-plus years ago
Why do some Chinese say that the attitude of the West toward China is increasingly similar to the attitude of the Qing dynasty toward the West? The reference is partially about the attitudes of the Qing in the late 18th century, at what looked superficially like the height of Qing imperial splendor, but at a time when, in fact, the rot had already set in and the Qing government was ossified, complacent, and undeservedly arrogant.
The Shanghai marriage market, visualized
The Paper has published a data visualization that shows the dating pool at Shanghai’s infamous marriage market at People’s Square in great detail. Based on 874 ads collected over six weeks, The Paper found that only 9 percent of the ads mention a person’s hobbies. “Apparently the marriage market doesn’t have room for people to connect on a non-material level,” the report concludes.
Techbuzz China: China vs. Google: Rematch?
After news that Google is building a censored search engine for China, Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma tell the story of Google in China — or rather, its 2010 departure and oft-rumored return. Though Chinese tech media love speculating, how likely is this to actually happen? What role does the U.S. government play? What factors need to be in place for Google’s return to occur, and is this even what the company’s leadership really wants?
Sinica Podcast: Legendary diplomat Chas W. Freeman, Jr., on U.S.-China strategy and history: Part 2
Jeremy and Kaiser continue chatting with Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr., on how he got interested in China, his early diplomatic career, his extraordinary experience as chief interpreter during Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972, and his prescient predictions of how China would evolve after the normalization of relations with the U.S.
PHOTO FROM MICHAEL YAMASHITA
Morning haze shrouds Baligou Valley (八里沟 bālǐgōu), near Xinxiang City in the Taihang Mountains scenic area in Henan Province.